16 April 2008

Kubrick's Final Days

I don't know if the story posted below adds more fuel to the fire surrounding the claim that Stanley Kubrick was autistic or again just describes a cineaste obsessed with secrecy. Kubrick could easily have asked for the projectionist to wear earplugs so as not to hear the soundtrack from "Eyes Wide Shut" at its first screening for studio executives.

March 10, 1999
All Eyes for a Peek at Kubrick's Final Film

Stanley Kubrick's work, like his life, was shrouded in mystery and secrecy.

And his final film, ''Eyes Wide Shut,'' also remains, in many ways, a source of mystery and secrecy. Mr. Kubrick, one of the great postwar filmmakers with classics like ''2001: A Space Odyssey'' and ''A Clockwork Orange,'' told a friend that it was his best film.

Mr. Kubrick's death in his sleep on Sunday, at 70, came only five days after the first screening of the movie for Bob Daly and Terry Semel, the co-chairmen of Warner Brothers, and the film's stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. At the request of Mr. Kubrick, the screening in New York took place in such secrecy that the projectionist was asked to turn away and not watch the film.

An autopsy had confirmed that Mr. Kubrick died of natural causes. Among those scheduled to attend the private funeral on Friday are Mr. Semel and Mr. Daly, as well as Mr. Cruise and Ms. Kidman.

Mr. Semel said the movie would be released as scheduled on July 16. ''The film is totally finished'' except for ''a couple of color corrections'' and ''some technical things,'' he said. ''What he showed was his final cut.''

Mr. Semel added that Mr. Kubrick had selected 90 seconds of a scene to show on Wednesday in Las Vegas to the Showest convention of theater owners at which studios offer glimpses of their coming movies. ''Eyes Wide Shut,'' a psychosexual drama, is loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella ''Dream Story.'' Ms. Kidman and Mr. Cruise play psychiatrists. ''It's the story of a married couple and their sexual exploits,'' Mr. Semel said. ''The part that also blew us was it's a terrific suspense thriller. It's a wonderful film. It's a film that's really challenging and is filled with suspense.''

Mr. Semel said he last spoke to Mr. Kubrick on Saturday morning from his hotel room in Syracuse. ''I said, 'Who is this?' and he said, 'Stanley,' and I said, 'Stanley, you're my wake-up call,' and we then spent a fantastic hour on the phone talking about the details of Showest and the release. He was in the highest spirits, the greatest mood. I haven't heard Stanley like that in many years. We were laughing. We were joking.

''He was thrilled with the collective reaction all four of us had to the film. He called an hour later to tell me a joke he had heard. The good news is he definitely went to sleep that night with a smile on his face.''

Another Warner Brothers executive, Julian Senior, the senior vice president for European marketing, said the movie involved two married psychiatrists whose fantasies intersect with their real lives.

Mr. Senior said that Mr. Kubrick called him on Saturday afternoon for an hourlong conversation, and that he told Mr. Kubrick that he was watching a rugby game on television, but the filmmaker began using baseball analogies. Mr. Kubrick, who was born in the Bronx, was a fervent fan of the Yankees.

''He always used baseball terms with me,'' Mr. Senior said. ''He said: 'Forget what you're watching. It's time to go to bat on the movie.' He said that Terry and Bob and Tom and Nicole had seen it and loved it, and he was thrilled. He said, 'Let's do it right.' ''

At one point in the conversation, Mr. Senior recalled, Mr. Kubrick said excitedly, ''It's my best film ever, Julian.''

Mr. Semel said he had read the closely guarded script in a London hotel because Mr. Kubrick did not want copies circulated. The film, made under almost military secrecy, took an unusually long 15 months to shoot.

No director, with the possible exceptions of Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood, had as much control as Mr. Kubrick. He did not have to endure the process in which filmmakers show studio executives their director's cut, which is often a starting point for further editing and even filming. There were also no previews to gauge audience reaction.

''When he showed the movie, it was his final version,'' said Mr. Semel, who met Mr. Kubrick while the director was making ''Barry Lyndon'' in 1975. He said Mr. Kubrick had agreed to make ''Eyes Wide Shut'' for an R rating. (No one under 17 may attend without an adult.) The film is believed to have numerous sexual situations, and there had been reports that it would be given a more restrictive NC-17 rating, barring all viewers under 17.

But Mr. Semel said he expected that the film, which cost about $65 million, would receive an R rating. ''It was not only our deal, it was what Stanley wanted,'' Mr. Semel said. ''He wanted the film to be available to the masses.''

The work will be the 13th full-length film of Mr. Kubrick's 40-year career, which began in 1953 with a melodrama, ''Fear and Desire,'' and continued with such classics as ''Paths of Glory'' (1957), ''Spartacus'' (1960), ''Lolita'' (1962), ''Dr. Strangelove'' (1964) and ''Full Metal Jacket'' (1987).

Mr. Kubrick moved to England shortly after completing ''Spartacus,'' a big-budget epic starring Kirk Douglas. By several accounts, he was dismayed by his lack of control in the studio and wanted to make movies free of interference. In the process, he became as publicity-shy as J. D. Salinger and Greta Garbo.

But Mr. Semel and Mr. Senior said that Mr. Kubrick kept in touch by fax, E-mail and phone and read publications on the Internet. He was also highly informed on movie marketing and distribution and could discuss the seating capacities of large theaters in the United States and abroad, Mr. Semel said.

Months ago Mr. Kubrick and Warner Brothers agreed to release the film in the United States in July, partly because it was ''a strong date'' and partly because it would coincide with its release in Europe, Mr. Semel said.

''To say he was reclusive is not true,'' Mr. Senior said. ''He didn't want a photo spread about himself in Hello magazine, but he was aware of everything going on and especially with what was going on with his beloved New York Yankees. He loved life, he loved chess, he loved documentaries. You'd go over to his home and there'd be John le Carre in his kitchen. He was not reclusive at all.''

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